College Shopping? Or Gambling?

College Shopping? Or Gambling?Some of my friends and family have been on the road this spring with their high school teens – shopping for colleges.

After listening to their reports, I am really concerned, especially after I did some online research on colleges and careers.

What I found surprised me.

Comparing Colleges

  • “Tuition hikes, stagnant growth in federal aid and increases in other expenses have pushed public college costs to new heights yet again this year, according to a College Board report out Wednesday. To attend an in-state public college for the 2012-13 academic year, the average overall cost (or “sticker price”) for students who don’t receive any financial aid rose 3.8% to a record $22,261, according to the report.”  Kim Clark @CNNMoney 
  • “New research released Monday says nearly half of the nation’s recent college graduates work jobs that don’t require a degree. The report, from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, concludes that while college-educated Americans are less likely to collect unemployment, many of the jobs they do have aren’t worth the price of their diplomas.”  The Huffington Post By William McGuinness

At the glance, it looks more like college gambling than shopping. Even more frightening is the potential loss of lots of money, time, effort and opportunity.

As parents, are we relying on the outdated promise that a college education guarantees a job and career? Is education no longer paving the way to vocation?

Identify Careers First

Education DOES lead to vocation, BUT in the new world of work, you must identify potential careers BEFORE making decisions about colleges and majors.

Here are three lessons for parents and teens to consider together:

1. Hear and follow God’s calling. Be prayerful, intentional and alert through worship, Bible study, fellowship and serving others. Be good stewards of the gifts and passions your students have been given. Look upward to God guidance on the next steps. Seek the path that God’s chooses.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8 NIV

2. Discover your teen’s gifts and passions. Take an inventory of their personality; natural interests, skills and work environment; work outcome and life values by investing in an assessment and consultation program like the new Career Direct GE Guidance System. The more we understand how God has made us, the better we can see the work He has prepared for us.

For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT

3. Explore interesting careers, subjects and activities. Look through ONET Online, America’s primary source of occupational information, to identify potential careers. Network through school, church, friends and family to talk to people who work in and around areas of interest. Look for internships, part-time jobs and special educational programs that provide direct experience and learning to make better decisions about the future.

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another
as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4:10 NASB

As you explore your teen’s calling, gifts, passions and future potential careers, you will see more clearly what majors and colleges might be the best picks.

Start this Summer

If you have a high school teen, start a conversation tonight about exploring careers, colleges and majors this summer.

  • Signup for free on for a career dashboard and over 200 online resources.  Download our free workbook “Explore: Prepare for Life after High School.” You and your teen use it as a guide for mutual exploration.
  • If your teen is a rising sophomore or older, have them take the Career Direct assessment and both of you receive feedback and consulting. For more information, introductory video and list of consultants, visit It is a small price to pay in light of investing thousands of dollars on college.
  • Identify three or more areas of interest. Visit people and places that involve the subjects, activities and occupations your teen enjoys. Look for part-time work or internships in and around careers of interest.
  • You and your teen keep looking upward in prayer and fellowship, especially as it relates to career exploration and college shopping.

… take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV

Continue the Conversation

Would you share your thoughts about college shopping? What tips, topics and tools do you recommend? Can you share your good or bad experience in picking colleges and majors? What questions to you have? Make your comments below!

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